Distance, 37 km
Elevation gain, 696 m
Elevation loss, 530 m
Total distance, 576 km
Daily average, 28.8 km
It is again a cold start to the morning, there are patches frost on the ground but the sky is clear and the sun is shining so all is well with my world.
By the time we reach the first stunningly beautiful walled village of Palazuelos at 6 km, the sun is well and truly shining in a cloudless blue sky, and for the first time in what seems an age I remove my raincoat for the rest of the walk. We follow arrows up through the town and find a track rising above the flatlands. And then onto a narrow path through natural scrubland, pausing for a moment on what might be a contender for the ‘best bench on the camino’.
We walk around the edge of the basin until we reach another charming village at 9 km. I am a little puzzled because this village does not appear on my list. It’s called Carabias and we are delighted to find a boutique 3* hotel which is not only open, but willing to serve a couple of scruffy pilgrims on their sunny terrace. I was presented with a whole jug of hot soy milk which was sufficient to fill two cups, and we had delicious toasted rustic bread with a dish of diced tomato. We were expecting the bill to be high, but it was less than most cafes would charge. Thank you Hotel Cardamomo.
When we set off again we have shed more clothes and for the first time in a couple of weeks we can feel fresh air upon our skin. It’s a good feeling that gives me a strange energy.
At this point we lost sight of any arrows although we were still in accord with the track I had downloaded onto maps.me. When meeting up with our Swiss friends at the end of the day they told us that back in the first village, Palazuelos, they found an arrow passing through the arch in the main square, taking them down onto the plain, whereas we had walked up to the top of the village and taken the high road. I estimate we may have walked an additional 4 km before rejoining the route they took, but that breakfast was worth the extra effort.
We saw no arrows for many kms, but I could see that we were walking in the right direction, eventually passing by an abandoned salt works. And at this point arrows and directions appeared pointing up an extremely steep hill to the next pretty village of La Olmeda de la Jadraque at 16.5 km (rather than the 12.5 km in my notes).
It’s a day of ups and downs – rising to villages and descending onto the plains.
Our fourth village is Santamera at 20.5 km, just a few pretty houses and a church, totally surrounded by towering cliffs on all sides. We stop here to eat lunch from our supplies and I refill my water bottle from the fuente. I trudge up a lung-busting 1.5 km steep hill out of the village
At 27 km we arrive at Riofrio de Llano. A villager sits on a bench opposite us and engages in conversation, saying if there is anything we need, he will try to provide it for us, what a kind offer.
The last section is most difficult underfoot. Rough track with large loose stones and a fair bit of flooding. We have 10 km of this, when we are already tired, but there is nothing to be done but to stride out through a variety of landscape for our destination. We can see the mighty fortress guarding Atienza from a distance of 5 km and it takes us another hour to arrive into town.
Another steep climb up to the main square where we stop at bar Galy situated under the ayuntamiento. The very helpful bar woman made countless phone calls only to discover that the alcalde is away on holiday, his second in command is out of town and no one has access to keys for the albergue. She has a sello in the bar. Eventually a woman from the tourist office comes to meet us and takes us to the albergue where we see our Swiss friends have already arrived and made an unfavourable assessment. We walk in and are immediately hit by cold, damp air. There are two rooms, each with one bed, with plenty of blankets. I didn’t see what other facilities there were. We decided not to stay. In the warmer months I am sure it would be ok.
We walk back down, passing by a Casa Rural that we discover is full, but we are told to try the hostal Santo Cristo at the entrance to town, where there is also a bar and restaurant. Modesto runs the hostal and showed us a large room with en-suite for 30 euros. Great! He offered to do our washing, which we gratefully accepted, but as there is no dryer and it is already quite late, we are not sure it will be dry in the morning. But it is a short day tomorrow so we can make a late start if necessary.
In the restaurant I am served a plate of rice with setas and asparagus, which is absolutely delicious. Thank you Modesto, you are a very nice man!